This guidebook on the three great Chola temples, built between the eleventh and twelfth centuries in Thanjavur, Gangaikondacholapuram and Darasuram, along themagnificent Cauvery delta in Tamil Nadu, is part of the World Heritage Series published by the Archaeological Survey of India.
All three temples are dedicated to Siva; and each represents the culmination of architectural and aesthetic achievements that came to form the Dravida style. From the imposing strength and exquisite paintings of Thanjavur's Brihadisvara, built by the great ruler and conqueror Rajaraja I, to the lavishly sculpted complex at Gangikondacholapuram, built by Rajaraja's equally valiant successor, Rajendra I, and the somewhat more delicately crafted Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram splendid history.
This volume also provides an introduction to the history and architecture of those times; it is illustrated with over 80 evocative photographs as well detailed site plans and sketches; and its exhaustive bibliography will aid those who wish to delve deeper into the vast Chola empire that produced these three outstanding edifices.
Qutb Minar & adjoining monuments Humayun's Tomb & Adjacent monuments
B R Mani, Arundhati Banerji, Hoshiar Singh of ASI, New Delhi K. Veerabhadra Rao, R. Krishnaiah of Aurangabad circle, ASI.
Good Earth Publications Team Edited by: Swati Mitra, Parvati Sharma designed by: Deepankar Bhattacharyya Photographs by: Swati Mitra, Parvati Sharma
The great Chola temples
Thanjavur earned prominence under the Cholas who erected a large number of temples, of which the Brihadisvara (Dakshinameru) at Thajavur stands foremost for its grandeur. This colossal temple, dedicated to Siva, is a befitting symbol of the magnificent achievements and greatness of the emperor who established the temple and named it after himself, Rajarajesvaram-udayar. His personality is reflected in a series of epigraphs inscribed through the plinth which record the gift of a gold-covered finial by the king on the two hundred and seventy-fifth day of his twenty-fifth regnal year, to be placed on the top of the temple vimana. The second Brihadisvara temple at Gangaikondacholapuram bespeaks the imperial dignity of the capital established by his son Rajendra. He established it after his victorious march to eastern India up to the river Ganga. It has massive monolithic statues to guard the entrances. The Airavatesvara temple complex at Darasuram, built by Rajaraja II, is equally grand and impressive. These three Chola temples collectively represent outstanding creative achievements, marked by pure Dravida style of architecture, sculpture and painting.
Thanjavur, the headquarters of the district of the name, lies about 322 km to the south-west of Chennai and is accessible directly by rail or road, via Kumbakonam, from Chennai. Thanjavur stands on the southern bank of the Vadavaru river, at the south-western extremity of the Cauvery delta. Its main temple, Brihadisvara, is located about 1.5 km from the Thanjavur railway station, within the Sivaganga little fort; and surrounded by a moat on its west, north and east, the grand Anaicut canal on its south and by Hospital road on a short stretch on its north-east. The temple complex is approached from its east by Vallam Road. The total area of the Sivaganga little fort is 18.075 hectares, of which the temple covers 2.85 hectares.
Accommodation ranging from economy to luxury is available at Thanjavur, provided both the Tamil Nadu tourism development corporation (TTDC) and by various private agencies. There is also a circuit house, maintained by the government of Tamil Nadu.
Gangaikondacholapuram is located in Udyarpalayam taluk of perumbalur district and situated on the northern edge of the cauvery delta beyond the Kollidam river, about 260 km from Chennai, 85 km from Thanjavur, 70 km from perumbalur and 36 km from Kumbakonam. A visitor from Chennai may travel by rail or road to Kumbakonam, from where there are regular bus services to Gangaikondacholapuram. Kumbakonam has private lodging facilities of a moderate kind. The temple here is also called Brihadisara, and it is bounded on the north by Jayamkondam-Chidambaram Road, on the east by Mettupalayam Road, off which the site is entered, and on the south and west by agricultural fields. The rectangle of its enclosing walls measures about 185 m east-west and 110 m north-south.
Darasuram is located on the outskirts of kumbakonam, just 5 km from the town, and 40 km from Thanjavur. Darasuram's main temple is called Airaatesvara, with a separate though adjoining Deivanayaki Amman shrine. Both are bounded on thee east by Tirukulam Kizhkarai street, off which the site is entered, on the north by Old Agraharam street, the west by railway station road and the south by residential properties. The Amman Sannadhi shrine is entered from its east by Amman Sannadhi street. Both the sites and the buffer zone around them cover an area of 5.5 hectares.
All three monuments are inscribed in the World Heritage list by Unesco as "The great living Chola temple".
These monuments are open to the public daily, from sunrise to sunset. Photography of the temples' exteriors using still cameras without stands, and with synchronized flash is permitted. All other forms of photography/videography require permission from: The Superintending Archaeologist Chennai circle, Archaeological survey of India.
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